You read that right, folks, another Hughes brother has entered the chat. Luke Hughes is finally having his moment, and despite all of the talk around him that’s being circled back to his brothers ad nauseam, he’s been finding quite a bit of success for himself. After a bit of a slow start to his season, he picked up some steam as he went on, and ended up scoring at a cool .88 point per game pace (not too bad for a defenseman, certainly). But his season was cut short when he suffered a lacerated tendon in his foot from a skate cut, which required surgery. It was a tough way to end it, but it was a good year for him overall, and the individual hype he’s garnered because of it is well deserved.
BSH 2021 Community Draft Board, No. 6: Luke Hughes
Team: US NTDP (USHL) and US National U18 (USDP)
Statistics: 4 G, 11 A in 18 GP (USHL) and 6 G, 28 A in 38 GP (USDP)
No. 4 (NA skaters) by NHL Central Scouting
No. 1 by Future Considerations
No. 5 by Dobber Prospects
No. 4 by Wheeler/The Athletic (midseason)
What’s there to like?
The one piece that immediately stands out about Hughes, unsurprisingly, is his skating. He’s a really tremendous skater—he has good speed and a smooth stride, he’s strong on his edges, and can change directions quickly on stop ups, it’s all working really well for him, and that makes him really dynamic to watch. And it’s also unsurprising that because of this skating strength, that also makes him a real force in transition, as he’s able to carry the puck well himself, but also make use of a great first pass on breakouts.
On the flip side, his defense in transition is also good, and his speed allows him to catch up to plays and gap up well. His size (6’2”, 176 pounds) is also an asset there, as it helps him to put more pressure on opponents and be hard to push off pucks when he’s the one to win battles. Overall, though, his defensive game is pretty solid already (particularly for more of an offensive defenseman). His game isn’t perfect, he can make mistakes—but more on that later—but his reads generally tend to be good, he’s decisive in those reads, and his hockey IQ is good enough that that all keeps him from getting into too much trouble.
But more on that offense! We kind of hate to put his whole profile and projection in relation to his brothers, but we’re going to do it for a second—his offensive game isn’t quite as dynamic as theirs, but that’s not really an issue. his instincts are strong enough and he’s skilled enough where he can still make plays, and will be able to make plays as he moves up levels. He brings a solid toolkit, with those strong instincts, a quick shot that he’s able to get through traffic well, and a willingness to cut to the net for more dangerous scoring chances when he sees the opportunity for it, and that all has made him quite effective so far.
And finally, it’s also important to note that Hughes has found all of this success while also being one of the youngest players in this draft class. And while we won’t pretend that the difference between an older player and a younger player in a class like this are astronomical, it is still something. Hughes played against a lot of players who were a bit ahead of him, developmentally, and he found a whole lot of success.
What’s not to like?
The good news, perhaps, is that there really isn’t one massive hole in Hughes game that could scare teams away from him, but there are still a couple of areas where his game could use a little cleaning up. We mentioned the release on his shot and how he’s able to get it through traffic, but he does also miss the net a good bit, so the accuracy bit is still a work in progress. We’d also like to see him get to the net to make plays a little more often—we see some of it, and we’d be hard pressed to call him just a perimeter player, but he would add a bit more dynamism to his game if he can do that with more consistency.
The last bit would be him just needing to clean up some of his puck management and decision making in the defensive zone. We saw these as a larger issue earlier in this season, and he improved as the season went on, so that’s certainly encouraging, but they could use a bit of work.
How would he fit in the Flyers’ system?
We’re risking sounding a little redundant here, as we add another high-end defenseman to this discussion, but it’s fair to echo some of our earlier thoughts. The Flyers’ are pretty well stocked, at both the NHL level and in the pipeline, with left shot defensemen, and we wouldn’t really identify that specifically as an area of need for them. That said, Hughes projects to be a strong impact player, and he’s going to improve whatever team he goes to (even if it isn’t for a couple of years), and no team, much less the Flyers, is really in a position to turn that down based on position alone. As we saw this season, a lot of the Flyers’ defense had some struggles on breakouts and puck moving, and the idea of adding another player into the mix who has that as one of his biggest strengths, well, it’s hard to hate that.
Could the Flyers actually get him?
Most likely, no. There really isn’t as much variance in where Hughes is projected to be taken, so there also isn’t much wiggle room for us to say “well, if he falls to x spot, then that gets him close to the Flyers, and they could do x to move up—”. He’s not likely to make it much farther than the top-5, and that’s pretty well out of the Flyers’ reach.
Also let’s be real: if he makes it out of the top three and is on the board for the fourth pick, the Devils are taking him. That’s absolutely a thing that’s happening, right?
We’ll make one addition to the poll:
Mason McTavish — C, Olten-Switzerland
McTavish is a talented offensive player who scored 29 goals in the OHL last season and has been scoring a lot in Switzerland this season. He can attack defenses in numerous ways in the offensive zone due to his NHL-caliber skill, vision and shot. He is a creative player who tries to make things happen. He has the shot to score from range against pros. He works hard enough to win pucks but won’t run guys over. — Corey Pronman
Who should be no. 10 on the 2021 BSH Community Draft Board?
This poll is closed